When Jay Bruce announced that he was retiring from baseball over the weekend, it prompted some speculation about how the Yankees might possibly replace him, with Luke Voit still on the shelf until at least mid-May. Tyler Wade was recently farmed out, and the team might have appreciated some late-game support for Gleyber Torres at shortstop, though recalling Wade would have meant essentially no reliable backup for DJ LeMahieu at first base.
There was also the possibility that they could use Bruce’s 40-man roster spot on someone new, like veteran Derek Dietrich, who competed with Bruce for his spot in spring training and was at the alternate site. Minor league first baseman Chris Gittens might have also had a chance, as the 27-year-old had hit some tape-measure shots in exhibition play, both in Scranton and Tampa.
Unsurprisingly, the Yankees opted for safest course of action, which was just simply promoting Mike Ford, who was briefly with the team earlier this month when Gio Urshela hit the COVID-IL for a day. The lefty masher caught eyes in 2019 by slugging 12 homers in just 50 games with a .259/.350/.559 triple slash and a 136 OPS+. Ford never got it going in 2020 though, and after posting a dismal 38 OPS+ that season, he only made it about halfway through spring in 2021 before getting cut.
Now, Ford will have another chance while Voit continues to be on the mend. For what it’s worth, he has made some nice contact recently in alternate site contests against the Phillies:
Mike Ford’s first AB back off the taxi squad: home run. pic.twitter.com/0kseVvLoyj— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) April 15, 2021
Mike Ford crushes a double off the high wall in right in his first AB. Easy home run at Yankee Stadium. pic.twitter.com/N3X403fWJ1— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) April 19, 2021
Can these only barely be classified as actual games? You bet. Is it all we have to go on for Ford’s recent results? Also true.
LeMahieu will still likely receive the lion’s share of the starts at first, but Ford is at least a legitimate backup who can handle the position better than Bruce. He’s also another option if the team is tired of watching Rougned Odor’s at-bats since they could move LeMahieu back to second and plug in Ford at first. (I don’t think anyone would blame them considering that Odor is hitting at about the same horrid level Bruce was when he retired.) Maybe with some at-bats here and there, Ford can recapture some of the lightning in a bottle he caught in 2019. The lineup could really use it right now.